News | 12th May, 2010

Wildlife pays price of thirsty river system

Tom Arup and Ben Cubby, The Age
Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Just 25 percent of flood plains in the Murray-Darling Basin were inundated with water during the devastating drought that gripped the nation during the past decade, detailed environment modelling by the CSIRO has found.

The long-term effects of the lack of water means that the ecological characteristics of some wetlands and flood plains have been completely altered, damaging wildlife habitats and reducing the overall biodiversity of the basin.

In a study released by CSIRO yesterday, modelling has shown between 2000 and 2009 just 1,517,753 hectares – or 25 per cent – of the 6,064,000 hectares of flood plains was inundated by water. That was a huge drop from the last recorded period 1983-96 when 4,545,785 hectares – or 76 per cent – were inundated.

Ian Overton, senior research scientist at the CSIRO, said yesterday the lack of water in the river system last decade had begun to change the environmental characteristics of the basin’s wetlands, mainly along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.

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